Palantir (NYSE: PLTR), the big data and analytics software company, debuted on the public markets last month and is currently valued at about $15 billion, or about $9 per share, trading at about 14.5x projected 2020 Revenues. This appears like an attractive valuation, considering that Palantir is on track to grow by about 40% this year and also accounting for the fact that software stocks have been in favor with investors this year. Does this make Palantir stock an attractive pick at current levels? What are the key risks & catalysts?
See our interactive analysis on Palantir Stock: Expensive Or Cheap? for a detailed breakdown of Palantir’s financials, valuation, and comparison with other high-growth software stocks. Parts of the analysis are outlined below.
Palantir Can’t Scale As Seamlessly As SaaS Stocks
Investors aren’t treating Palantir like a Software as a Service (SaaS) stock. SaaS companies incur upfront costs to develop and maintain their products, but they can scale-up seamlessly to a large number of users and have low customer acquisition costs. Palantir’s software, on the other hand, requires a lot of customization by Palantir engineers to adapt to the unique needs of customers. Its user base is also concentrated (125 users as of 2019, with 20 of them accounting for two-thirds of Revenue). This adds significantly to the company’s costs. For instance, Sales and Marketing Expenses stood at 61% of total Revenue in 2019, with General & Administrative costs standing at over 43% of Revenue. This significantly impacts the company’s bottom line, with Net Margins standing at -78% in 2019. In comparison, Datadog, a SaaS player that provides solutions to monitor cloud applications, had Net Margins of -5% during its most recent fiscal year. However, with Revenues likely to pick up this year, Palantir’s Net Margins should also rise. Over H1 2020, Net Margins stood at -34%.
Palantir’s Increasing Exposure To Government
While Palantir’s Revenues expanded by about 24% in 2019, growth is likely to pick-up to levels of over 40% in 2020 as Covid-19 related disruptions increased demand for the company’s services. Much of this growth will likely come from the Government space. Over H1 2020, Government Revenue expanded about 76% year-over-year, while its Commercial Revenue grew by just 26%. The higher government exposure – particularly in areas related to surveillance and national security – comes with transparency and perception issues – which could put off software investors. That said, Palantir still has a lot of scope to grow in the Commercial space, with its total addressable market standing at about $56 billion. Investors could re-think Palantir’s valuation if they see more proof points indicating progress in the commercial sector, via high profile deals or stronger Revenue growth.
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